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English degree specialization nurtures creativity and professionalism

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The creative writing track is totally new and puts the program on par with those in the U.S.

August 18, 2015—

Students enrolling this fall in LAU’s revamped undergraduate program in English can look forward to developing their skills in food writing, poetry, arts criticism and speech writing. These are but a few of the new courses developed after the introduction of a third specialization within the English degree. “The creative writing track is totally new and puts our program on par with those in the U.S.,” enthuses chair of the newly established Department of English Nola Bacha.

Whether students choose to specialize in linguistics, literature or creative writing, they will all have an opportunity to learn the skills needed to write well for media, advertising and development organizations. “We have partnered with the Communication Arts department to offer interdisciplinary courses that prepare students for the needs of the marketplace,” explains Bacha.

The fashion, hospitality and business faculties will also be invited to co-develop courses in fashion writing, food writing and grant writing respectively, adds Jenine Abboushi, the assistant professor in comparative literature who first proposed the specialization in creative writing. “I had envisioned it at first as a postgraduate program, but as the department was already revising the B.A. in English, I saw an opportunity. The chair and the university were very open to the suggestion and encouraging. That’s part of what I like about LAU,” Abboushi says.

The creative writing specialization isn’t modeled off a curriculum from another university, but is rather the result of Abboushi’s research and consultation with various organizations. “We import television series and many of those working here writing for media and development are foreigners. We should train people who are grounded in Lebanon in these fields,” says Abboushi.

Given the diverse professions that require professional writing skills, the curriculum is ambitious in scope, offering a variety of courses that enable students to further specialize in one of three tracks — fiction, poetry and creative non-fiction; writing for TV and media; and writing for diplomacy and international organizations.  “They are all imagined professionally and interrelated,” Abboushi elaborates. “Screenplays are often now adapted from novels and plays, and copywriters in advertising agencies are often poets.”

Abboushi is herself a writer, having recently completed a novel. “It wasn’t a conscious decision, to write. While writing for my Ph.D. thesis on colonialist literature, I wrote a piece for the Times Literary Supplement which gained interest from the region,” she says.

Travel is a prominent theme in Abboushi’s novel, and last semester she used her experience to teach a course on travel writing. Recognizing through her own experience how motivating it is to have your work published, Abboushi is collating the travel pieces written by her students in an anthology titled “Beirut for Beirutis,” to be published online. 

Abboushi values the freedom to work on new concepts, yet another reason she appreciates LAU. “The university is very welcoming,” she shares. “It’s reinventing itself and open to new ideas. There is a lot of space in Lebanon to try things out and create something. It’s open to possibilities.”


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